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Eug91's radical nephrectomy story

eug91's picture
eug91
Posts: 148
Joined: Jan 2019

[ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 29, 2018. Lost in the great CSN Outage of January 2019. Re-posted because I'm hoping it can still be useful to others.]

Left kidney robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical nephrectomy. Apologies for the length. I thought it'd be fun to share my experience, and hopefully be useful to anyone who's about to go through it. 

After my pre-op check up to make sure I was healthy enough to go through surgery, I spent the rest of the week before my nephrectomy on the treadmill, stretching, push-ups/sit-ups/leg-lifts, drinking lots of water, using a spirometer to build up my lungs. I have no proof that this stuff helped, but I sure FELT better. The day before, I was put on a clear liquid diet. 

THE NEPH

Saturday morning I checked into the hospital, then got taken up to recovery. I was the second nephrectomy scheduled for the day. That's where I met again with my doctor and met the anesthesiologists. I told the anesthesiologists how nervous I was, and they assured me that they'd give me a really mild sedative in my IV before the procedure so that I'd feel better. The procedure & treatment nurse took my wife's cell phone number and would be calling her with updates. 

My doctor told me that the procedure would be 2-3 hours, closer to 3 because (in his words) they were going to take their time. 

At 1pm the anesthesiologist came to wheel me away. Whatever they gave me had calmed down. Said good-bye to the wife. Tried to say something funny. Failed. 

Operating room was cold (better sterile environment). Saw the robot that would be doing the work and the work-stations where the doctors would be. They held the mask for me and asked me to do some deep breathing. I felt super relaxed, just chatting away with the anesthesiologists and nurses- 

Then I woke up in recovery. Half-asleep, I remember the nurses telling me "great job" and "it went great". The next thing I clearly remember is lying in a super-comfortable hospital room bed. They put my glasses on so I could see. The clock read 7:00pm. I went "Is that right???" 

Then the best sight in the world when my wife came in. I had failed to say something funny earlier, but this time I nailed it. :) 

My wife updated me on what had happened while I was out. Apparently it had taken a very long time for the anesthesia to kick in. My tumor had a tangle of blood vessels feeding it, like a parasite. The doctor took his time making sure to carefully clamp off every one of the vessels before taking the kidney out. Thankfully the nurse was calling my wife with updates so she wasn't scared that the 2-3 hour procedure had turned into 6 hours. God bless those great doctors and nurses. 

THE FIRST NIGHT

Texted my kids silly animated gif files to let them know I was fine. Didn't think I'd want to eat, but was given the best chicken broth and apple juice I've ever had in my life. The nurse thought it was too early to try, but I wanted to try to walk. The nurse was right, I couldn't get out of bed, so that would wait til morning. Then to my surprise, I fell asleep. Got a few hours of initial sleep, then woke up unable to sleep more. Watched a lot of MTV Classic, singing along to 80's music videos. Had my first gas, which was exciting. 

The next day, I got woken up a few times for various tests - blood pressure, blood, shots, etc. I scarfed down a breakfast of scrambled eggs and wheat toast, did my first walk around the hospital floor, had my catheter taken out (ugh, super uncomfortable), used my spirometer, and dealt with diarrhea from the post-surgery antibiotics in my IV. Talked with my doctor and thanked him for everything. Ordered a mushroom chicken sandwich for lunch, but they accidentally sent a mushroom hamburger... which was SO GOOD. 

Pain management - Tramadol in the IV, and regular old Tylenol. It was great. A little sore and uncomfortable, but never in any pain. 

My most painful moment was trying to urinate for the first time after the catheter. I've never done anything with as much precision and fury as when I hit that CALL NURSE button. I was then told that removing the catheter inflames the urethra and it takes 4-6 hours for the swelling to go down. NOW THEY TELL ME. So I dutifully held it for another 4-6 hours before trying to urinate. Much better. 

Less than 24 hours after surgery, I was discharged. For the first time in my life, got to ride in a wheelchair. 

BACK HOME

Sleeping - That first night at home, I couldn't find a good position. I usually sleep on my side or stomach - both now unavailable to me. Tried the recliner, but it was murder on my back. Tried the bed, which was also bad on my back, but better than the recliner. The problem was that I was trapped in bed. At the hospital, I could raise the hospital bed and climb out. No such luck at home. Unable to sleep for more than 2-3 hours at a time that first night. Took a LOT of trial and error to figure out a way to climb out of bed - put a backwards chair next to bed. Use my opposite left arm to grab the back of the chair and use the closest-to-the-edge right elbow/arm to push up off the bed. Fortunately, it gets better every night - both in terms of longer sleep, deeper sleep, and ease of climbing in and out of bed. 

Pain management - I was given a prescription for Norco, but I haven't used it. I just stuck to a regular schedule of Tylenol and it's been great. First four days taking the proper dosage every six hours. By day #5, I was taking it every eight hours. I tried cutting the dosage to see if I'd notice, but definitely felt more soreness so I went back to the proper dosage but not as often. Also, HEAT PADS and ICE BAGS. Sore shoulders, heat. Sore sternum, ice bag. Sore back, heat. 

Walking - Take it slow. Everyone said it to me before, but it is SO TRUE. Take everything slow. Everything gets a little better every day. I can't believe how well I'm moving and walking now, but I just had to take it nice and slow until my body was ready. I bought an audiobook and put it on my phone. Whenever I feel like walking, I put on another chapter of the book and shuffle around until the chapter ends or I get tired - whichever happens first. 

Motivation - A silly little thing, but something I should mention. Before my neph, I went online and bought a Hockey Fights Cancer t-shirt. The back has in block letters: SURVIVOR. I wore that shirt on the way out of the hospital. A silly little thing, but it felt REALLY good. I have the shirt hanging near my bed right now to remind me. 

THANK YOU EVERYONE

This message board has been heaven sent. You don't know how much your posts and wishes and advice have meant to me - keeping me calm, making me feel like I could do this. I had an amazing Christmas at home with my family, healing up and watching Christmas movies between long naps. I hope every one of you have a joyous holidays. 

Of course, this is just the beginning. I've got a lifetime of scanxiety and follow-ups ahead of me, but I know I'm not facing it alone - I feel honored to be traveling with everyone here on this journey together. Here's to a happy and healthy and NED 2019! 

eug91's picture
eug91
Posts: 148
Joined: Jan 2019

The first time I posted this, so many of you wrote such encouraging things to me. So thank you everyone, including (but not limited to) JoeyZ, icemantoo, APny, Apaugh, Wehavenotimeatall, stub1969, Canadian Sandy, Crashster, Invictus27, Tapman63, Manufred, love_of_my_life, Mighty Frog, jason.2835. 

Canadian Sandy's picture
Canadian Sandy
Posts: 508
Joined: Jul 2016

Thank you for reposting eug. It will help a lot of people who pass by this site. Best of everything to you for now and the future.

Sunono's picture
Sunono
Posts: 27
Joined: Mar 2019

I am very pleased to read your experience. I’m about to go through the Nephrectomy (open surgery)on March 21, 2019.  I am positive and encouraged!

donna_lee's picture
donna_lee
Posts: 900
Joined: Feb 2009

Went through the Big C. Surgery in 2006,  I think I win in the tubes in/out category with a central line under my clavicle, drain tube in the belly, compression boots that inflated on their own.

Glad that's all way behind me.

Good luck on your continued recovery.  Great Attitude, by the way.

Hugs,

donna_lee

Positive_Mental_Attitude's picture
Positive_Mental...
Posts: 454
Joined: Jul 2014

Just read this for the first time.  Our stories are somewhat similar.  You did a wonderful job of telling your story.

I was 47 when I was diagnosed in 2014. My surgery was at MSKCC in NYC.  I was pacing in the pre-operation room, and I looked out the window and saw the hospital where I was born--Columbia Presbyterian (now NY Presbyterian).  It was surreal.  I nearly died as a newborn due to a major problem with my intestines. My abdomen has so many scars from my operation as a newborn, I look like I lost a knife fight. I believe that the problem that led to my CT scan and diagnosis may have been related to my original operation.  Lucky for me, I had a terrible bowel obstruction that brought me to the emergency room, where a 2.9 cm tumor was discovered.  I sometimes think about what might have happened to me and what my outcome may have been if I did not have an ornery stomach. 

 

My walk to the OR felt like a walk into a spaceship.  Funny thing with the anesthesiogist--he was related to someone who works in my office.  As he was trying to get me to relax, he asked me what I did and where I worked.  That last thing I remember saying was that we should call up his cousin and come over for the party. Between seeing the hospital of my birthplace and where I almost never made it out of hte hospital to the anestheiologist episode, I felt like my life was flashing before my eyes.

After that, I remember waking up in recovery, and my recover was similar to yours.

I am also a stomach and side sleeper.  Fortunately, I was able to sleep in a recliner, which I did for quite a few weeks.   It's good to be here reading another success story.

Bay Area Guy's picture
Bay Area Guy
Posts: 385
Joined: Jun 2016

donna Lee, I had those leg compression things for an abdominal surgery I had.  I thought they felt nice the first ten minutes or so.  After that, I wanted to cut my legs off.  Only thing worse was the catheter.

Positive, I also remember going into the OR and feeling like I was in Doctor Who’s TARDIS or on the Enterprise.  I remember thinking, hopefully to myself, but I can’t be sure of that, “This is f’ing cool”.  I sure hope it was to myself.

Eug91, thanks for the repost.  It will definitely help people going through what we all have gone through.

icemantoo's picture
icemantoo
Posts: 3215
Joined: Jan 2010

Seems like old times. You are now eligible for the club beanie.

 

 

 

icemantoo

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